Sunday, June 23, 2024

The “Newark Portagee” sandwich at The Neighborhood in Somerville’s Union Square. (Photo: Tom Meek)

Happy 40th to The Neighborhood Restaurant & Bakery, launched back in 1983 by Portuguese immigrants when Union Square was decidedly old-school, the MBTA’s green line ended at Lechmere (and the eponymous harness-shop-turned-local-department-store was still there) and the red line was only thinking about Alewife. It’s one of several long-ensconced eateries (like Himalayan Kitchen) that hang at the backside of the upscale-trending Union Square.

The Neighborhood’s a breakfast and lunch joint and a bustling one at that, especially on warm-weather weekends when folks flock from all over to sit under the blossoming vine trellis that adjoins the building to nosh on plates laden with robust omelets, hash browns and complimentary pastries.

Most don’t think off the Neighborhood as a Portuguese place, and you don’t see the traces much on the breakfast menu, save for mentions of linguica and the homemade Portuguese rolls used for breakfast sandwiches. But when you get to the lunch menu, the old world culinary influences are clear and abundant, from the porco Alentejana (pork and clams) to the Portuguese lunch that serves up a shrimp, cod, crab and meat cake with rice and fries. Did I mention lunch comes with choice of soup or salad and dessert? I was told the cod filet sandwich was also a winner – and it was, lightly fried with just the right amount of fresh lettuce and tomato on one of those Portuguese rolls and some boom boom sauce (mayo, ketchup and Sriracha). The sando was preceded by a smooth red bean and spinach soup and followed by a generous serving of rib-sticking rice pudding – and all this for under $11. The Neighborhood serves beer and wine, and I had a glass of rich sangria, which came with a heaping crown of super fresh berries.

Red bean and spinach soup with sangria at The Neighborhood. (Photo: Tom Meek)

On a subsequent breakfast run I had the “Newark Portagee” sandwich (I believe the family landed in New Jersey before Somerville), which, if you like sautéed onion and peppers as I do, is your kind of breakfast feast. You get plenty of them atop cheese-smothered eggs on one of those rolls with a chorizo sausage patty stuffed in at the bottom for good measure. You need an army of napkins to get through this hearty eat. (Next time I might get it without the chorizo patty.)

The Neighborhood is high-end diner comfort food with culinary cultural flourishes from across the sea. The clientele is an olio, a true melting pot, and many of the staffers are long-timers, a testament to the family and their commitment to the business and to the square. The Neighborhood is open early but closes at 4 p.m., with the busiest times at mid- to late morning.

The Neighborhood Restaurant & Bakery (25 Bow St., Union Square, Somerville 

Tom Meek is a writer living in Cambridge. His reviews, essays, short stories and articles have appeared in the WBUR ARTery, The Boston Phoenix, The Boston Globe, The Rumpus, The Charleston City Paper and SLAB literary journal. Tom is also a member of the Boston Society of Film Critics and rides his bike everywhere.